Australian Open chief says 2021 tournament at risk due to Covid-19

Tennis season was halted in early March due to the spread of the virus

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 02: Novak Djokovic of Serbia poses with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the Men's Singles Final against Dominic Thiem of Austria on day fourteen of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 02, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Australian Open chief Craig Tiley says next year's tournament could be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and even if it does go ahead fans from overseas will not be able to attend Melbourne Park.

The first Grand Slam of the year is one of the few major sports events that was able to be completed before the tennis season was halted in early March due to the spread of the virus, which has infected more than three million people around the world and killed over 256,000.

Tiley said next year's Australian Open (AO), still over eight months away, would not escape the impact of the pandemic.

"Worst-case scenario is no AO," he told the Australian Associated Press.

"Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans."

Australia has had less than 7,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19. The country is expected to announce on Friday a loosening of social distancing restrictions with curbs on most businesses removed by July.

"There's four scenarios and we've modelled everything," Tiley said. "We've modelled the times we have to make decisions, dates we have to make decisions, who it impacts, how it's going to impact them.

"We've done that for 670 staff. We've done that for all of our partners - our media partners, our sponsors and for all the governments and places we rent facilities.

"And now we're working on the international playing group and getting them to understand what each of those scenarios are and what it means for them and how we can action it."

The Australian Open was able to take place in January as scheduled but French Open organisers have moved the clay-court major back to September from its May start while Wimbledon has been cancelled.

The fate of the US Open in New York is expected to be decided next month.

The men's ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women's circuit, have suspended all tournaments at least until mid-July after countries started locking down borders to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Some players, including 19-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, have said they fear the remainder of the 2020 season could be wiped out.